“If you should feel me move toward the light / you’ll shoot me down like a dead satellite.”

Hey everybody. As a hold-over while I finish my ethnography and write a response to the latest blog prompt, here’s some music from the late Mark Heard, an amazing (and criminally obscure) singer-songwriter. I’m not sure I picked the best song to introduce you to his work, but I hope you like it nonetheless.

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My undergraduate student page

I mentioned previously that part of my Intro to New Media homework was to post some writing assignments to my North Central College Web space. I’m presently working on the first of these assignments (a brief ethnography of an online community), and I figured I ought to at least put a basic site design together in advance. So, without further ado, check out my school homepage.

Some brief notes:

  • It’s not very pretty. I’m a coder, not a designer. Sorry ’bout that.
  • I’m not thrilled with how the navigation links in the sidebar look. I’ll see if I can come up with something better to do with them.
  • It’s intentionally light on content. Except for required school assignments and a few other small pages, I plan to keep my school site simple and succinct. This blog (bcat.name) will continue to be my primary Internet presence in the long run.
  • Static pages were generated with the aid of Poole, an amazing useful open-source templating engine written in Python.
  • I have primarily tested the site in Firefox 3.6, Chrome 8.0, and Safari 5. Due to time constraints, I have not yet done any testing in Opera; however, I suspect it renders equally well in this and any other modern, standards-friendly browser.
  • It looks pretty good in IE 8, surprisingly. Rendering is decent in IE 7 and IE 6, though some things are a bit suboptimal here.
  • The site makes heavy use of HTML5 elements, and Remy Sharp’s HTML5 shiv is used to allow legacy IE versions to style new elements like section and aside. This has the unfortunate side effect of totally breaking the layout in Internet Explorer pre–version 9 when JavaScript is disabled. Since the (partially unstyled) content is still readable, I am honestly not very concerned about this.
  • One of the Web fonts the site tries to load (Fertigo Pro Italic) doesn’t work in Mobile Safari. Text in that font ends up totally invisible. I’m still trying to figure out what the problem is.
  • Feedback is, as always, quite welcome. If you spot a typo or a broken link, or if you just have some constructive criticism, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Posted in Coding, Design, Geek, Intro to New Media, School, Web | 2 Comments

North Central College reopens despite poor conditions—students protest

Looks like our current snow day will be the only snow day in response to the Blizzard of 2011. North Central College college recently announced that it will reopen at 10:00 AM tomorrow. Here’s the message they emailed to the student body about an hour ago:

North Central College will reopen at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 3. A delayed opening on Thursday will give the College’s staff additional time to remove snow from remaining sidewalks and building entrances and will allow the City of Naperville to clear side streets throughout the neighborhood. Given the amount of snow received this week, the campus community is advised that parking may still be difficult. All employees are required to report for work at 10:00 a.m. We appreciate your patience through this snow removal process and thank the College’s snow removal crew for their diligent work.

That’s all well and good, but conditions on campus were quite bad earlier today, and many students doubt the school will be able to use the additional two hours to fully clear the sidewalks and parking lots. Moreover, with 1043 of its 2423 undergrads living off-campus, commuter students make up 43% of NCC’s undergraduate body. Even if Naperville is totally plowed by ten o’clock tomorrow, it’s likely that road conditions will still be poor throughout the state.

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Posted in Intro to New Media, News, School | 2 Comments

Whitespace, text readability, and online typography

Hey all, bit of a geeky brain dump here. If you don’t want to want to read my (mostly uninformed) ramblings about Web design and text formatting, feel free to skip over this post. :)

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Posted in Design, Geek, Intro to New Media, Web | 1 Comment

Snow day!

Some of us have been secretly (or not so secretly) hoping for a snow day. Well, we got one! As of 4:00 PM today, the North Central College campus is closed through tomorrow night.

I’ve heard rumors of the school closing due to weather in the past, but until now I’d never witnessed it myself. North Central College has a reputation of staying open in treacherous weather, but I guess a blizzard warning can convince even the most hard-line of NCC’s higher-ups to shut things down. It looks like this one might be a record-breaker, so that’s probably a wise choice. (Personally, I’m cool with the snow. I just hope the power stays on at my house.)

Well y’all, keep safe and warm over the next couple of days, and enjoy the snow!

Posted in Fun, Intro to New Media, School | 1 Comment

Chinese newscasters must really like Top Gun.

I just read about this on a friend of mine’s Facebook wall, and it was just too good to pass up. It seems that CCTV, China’s state run television network, recently reported on a training exercise carried out by the Chinese air force. To make the story more eye-catching, they added footage of the exercise showing a Chinese fighter pilot shooting and destroying another fighter plane with an air-to-air missile. It all sounds normal enough so far. Just a standard display of military prowess—nothing unusual here, right?

Well, nothing except one small detail that CCTV failed to mention: It turns out the dramatic, “authentic” clip isn’t quite so authentic after all. Instead, China Central Television appears to have appropriated the footage from Tom Cruise’s hit film, Top Gun. Check out the Wall Street Journal’s side-by-side comparison, which I’ve also embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

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Egypt to citizens: No Internet for you!

Well, it’s almost been a week since my last post. Bad blogger, no cookie! I’ve got a couple of ideas for posts to write up tomorrow, then I should be back in the swing of things. In the meantime, I wanted to share some news I found on Prof. Macek’s blog.

I’m sure some of you have heard about the protests and political unrest in Egypt by now. Maybe you’ve seen video of some brave protesters standing up to a water cannon. News about the situation seems to be spreading much faster on the Internet than in the mainstream media. Doubtless this is far truer in Egypt, a place where journalists and bloggers critical of the government face prison sentences.

The Egyptian government recently tried to prevent the protests from gaining momentum by censoring social networking Web sites. This behavior isn’t new or extraordinary; repressive regimes have long resorted to Internet censorship to protect their positions. Today, though, Egypt took a much more extreme step. In one swift blow, they cut off Internet access to nearly all Egyptian ISPs. At the same time, Egypt’s “counter-terror force” deployed to suspected protest sites as the rallies are expected to continue, with Friday’s protests looking to dwarf those up to this point.

As shocking and terrifying as Egypt’s recent actions are, I think they will harm the government’s cause more than they aid it. Egypt’s ruling party has made it perfectly clear that they don’t care about the will of the people—they plan to maintain control over the population by brute force. In this sense, their decision to cut off Internet service is understandable. Without network access, Egyptian citizens will find it much more difficult to plan future protests, and they’ll also be unable to easily report government atrocities to the outside world.

Yet it seems that Egypt’s decision can only add fuel to a fire that’s already burning out of control. The people of Egypt are angry, and they want a revolution. The Egyptian regime may try to tighten its grip on its citizens by cutting their links to each other and to other nations, but this will just give the citizens yet another evil to protest against. I wonder if governments will ever learn that censoring information and communication always hurts them in the long run.

Posted in Intro to New Media, News, Web | 1 Comment

“The double-edged sword of participatory dynamics”

Last Friday I went to see a “mock lecture” by Hillary Shulman, a faculty applicant for North Central’s Speech Communication department. She spoke on public relations and the new media, placing particular emphasis on the often rocky relationship between advertisers and users of social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube.

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Google addiction, or search addiction?

[This is a response to Prof. Macek’s second blog prompt].

We’ve been discussing Google off-and-on for the past two class periods, and I’ve thought a bit more about it as I’ve been brainstorming my response to this blog prompt. Are people becoming addicted to Google? Am I addicted to Google?

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Blogging hits a plateau

Blogging has peaked, according to a recent article published in Gawker. The article cites the Pew Research Center’s “Generations 2010” report, which finds that blogging has declined drastically among young Americans. The decline has been particularly sharp with teens; the percentage of Americans aged 12–17 who blog halved in a three year period, falling from 28% in 2006 to only 14% in 2009.

I found this quite surprising at first—even by the most generous standards, blogging is only about 15 years old, and it only became popular sometime shy of 10 years ago. Why would teens and young adults, the people who are supposed to be at the forefront of this “new media” revolution people love to talk about, be giving up on blogging? Have young people become less willing to express themselves online? I don’t really think so. America’s youth are still sharing their personal lives with anyone and everyone, often to their undoing. It seems we must look elsewhere to find the cause of this “blogging peak”.

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Posted in Intro to New Media, Web | 1 Comment